You just downloaded the latest update of your favorite app to your iPhone, but the new version crashes and the old version is no longer available in the App Store. Are you out of luck until the fix is released? Maybe not. If you downloaded the update on your iPhone only (not in your computer’s iTunes), here’s one way to downgrade back to a previous version of an app.
One pretty big update (09/25/15)
Newer versions of iTunes combined with iOS9 may delete your old copies of apps instead of moving them to the trash like previous versions did. Hopefully, you are backing up your computer to Time Machine or another comprehensive backup. If you’ve got any incremental backup, you can definitely restore your old copies of apps from that.
Sadly, it looks like Apple removed their hand but short-lived “Download Previous Versions…” feature years ago.
If you downloaded a broken update to your iPhone, don’t update apps in iTunes yet. You’ll be using the old copy of the app that’s still stored in your iTunes library.
Delete the app on your iPhone by pressing the app’s icon for several seconds. The apps will start to jiggle and a small X will appear in the upper lefthand corner. Press the X of the app you want to delete. You’ll be asked to rate the app; it’s up to you. Press the home button after the app is gone from the screen to stop the jiggling and get out of delete mode.
Then, connect your iPhone to your computer. In iTunes, select iPhone or iPod touch (below Devices), and then click the Applications tab. Select “Sync Applications”. In your iPhone’s Applications list, the app is now deselected, but it’s still there. Select the app and sync. The old version will copy back to your iPhone.
If the app is broken, it’s probably not a good idea to “Update All” until you know it’s been fixed. You can update all your other apps one at a time.
This technique only works if you haven’t updated your iTunes copy of the app. If it’s also been updated, you’re out of luck until the developer releases a fix. If you’re crafty, you could pull an older copy of the app from your Time Machine backup (you *do* back up your computer, right?). This trick doesn’t work with jailbroken apps.
Sometimes apps go all the way through the development and approval processes with some undetected bugs. If you happen to download one of them, this is one of the ways to revert back to a working version.
UPDATE: Reader Patrick Timney (SCW) sent me a great tip if you’ve already updated both iPhone and iTunes. He’s given me permission to pass it on here. Thanks, Pat!
If users have a Mac, just look in the Trash. iTunes throws all previous versions in there. So retrieve the app from trash, delete the new version from Applications in iTunes, then drag & drop the previous version into your Applications section of iTunes. Select & sync & you’re golden.
UPDATE 05.05.11 @ 11:48: Reader Marissa points out in the comments below another fail-safe if you have a Mac and are using Time Machine to back up their Mac (you are backing your computer up, right?).
I managed to drag and drop an older version from my time machine into my iTunes app section and revert back to the older (working) version.